The Ultimate Guide to Start Building Muscle

The Ultimate Guide to Start Building Muscle

Everything starts with you. Remember that you already have all you need to start building muscle. The following bodyweight workout routine will teach you the basics of muscle-building, without the risk of getting injured with a heavy barbell. The exercises will challenge you and grow your strength in ways no A-list celebrity workout DVD ever can.

Perform two sets of each move in order; rest for one minute between sets. Do this workout four times per week. Every week, add another set to the moves and rest less. Continue until you are able to do four sets of each move.

1 SINGLE-LEG BURPEE

Perform 5 reps on each leg

This combines plyometrics, for speed off the mark, with unilateral motion, which is another expression for “hopping.” This helps you build a stronger core.

Squat, put your hands on the floor, then kick your left foot back, keeping the right raised off the ground. Then jump your left foot up into a squat position then leap as high as possible. Switch legs and repeat.

clapping press-ups

2 CLAPPING PRESS-UP

Perform 6 reps

Regular press-ups are for many men just boring. Pushing your body up high enough to clap fires more fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Put your hands on the floor at shoulder-width, bend your elbows, holding them tucked in. When your chest touches the ground, push up as hard as possible, clap your hands together in mid-air then fall straight into the next press-up.

3 KNEE-RAISE CHIN-UP

Perform 6-8 reps

This exercise isn’t easy. But lifting your knees prevents your body from swinging from the bar and, as a reward, you’ll fully engage your biceps, back, upper chest and nearly every part of your abs. It’s definitely worth getting the hang of.

Grab a pull-up bar with an underhand grip. Hang at arm’s length then lift your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Pull your chin over the bar. Hold, then return to the starting position.

4 LATERAL LUNGE

Perform 6-8 reps

Regular squats are great for shifting your metabolism up a gear during circuits. But for tangible muscular growth in your quads and hamstrings, you have to put them to one side.

Start with your feet hip-width apart, holding your hands out at chin height. Make a step to the side with your right leg, bending your knee until the left leg is straight. Push back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Point your foot in the same direction as the bent knee, otherwise you risk doing more harm than good.

Inverted Row

5 INVERTED ROW

Perform 8 reps

Lie under a bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Hang at arm’s length with your body in a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Brace your abs to keep your torso rigid: This is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself against injury and increase power on every muscle-building move. Then pull your chest to the bar, pause and lower yourself back to full hang.

6 QUAD PRESS

Perform 5 reps

This one is another way to upgrade the ever-reliable press-up. By shifting your center of gravity you can target your upper body more effectively.

Lower on all fours, knees bent forward and weight resting on your toes. Put your hands together and bend your elbows to lower your chest to the ground, allowing your knees to splay out. Straighten your arms to return to the starting position. If you’re doing it right, you should feel like a frog.

7 TRICEP EXTENSION

Perform 12 reps

Find a step, ledge or a bar that’s about waist-high and get into a press-up position with your hands resting on the bar. Keep your torso rigid and elbows tucked in close to your torso. Lower your physique until your head drops below the ledge/bar. Then straighten your arms to return to the start. You should feel a sharp burning in your triceps. If not, increase the difficulty by finding a lower bar.

windshield wiper

8 WINDSHIELD WIPER

Perform 12 reps

Work every part of your abs without any weights or mat work. Raising your legs engages the ever-elusive lower abs, while rotational moves are a love-handle buster.

Hang from a bar and lift your legs. Rotate your trunk to shift them side-to-side, like the movement of your car’s wipers. Make sure you don’t bend your knees or elbows. Making swishing noises is fine, however.

9 HIP EXTENSION

Perform 8 reps on each side

This last move reminds of yoga and is an opportunity to squeeze in extra growth while stretching out.

Begin on all fours, hands under your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Lift your right foot off the ground and, keeping the knee bent, raise it until your hamstring is in line with your back. Lower and repeat on the left leg. Finish up your two sets and collapse on the mat/carpet.

deadlift kettlebell

UPGRADING BASIC MUSCLE-BUILDING

Your starting bodyweight training has conditioned your muscles and built a base of growing more strength. In this part, you will learn how to use weights correctly. Whether you’re a beginner in the gym or you might just need a refresher, by using a single weight you can concentrate on getting your form spot on. You want to strain your T-shirt and not your back, right?

INSTRUCTIONS: Perform the set of exercises, rest for a minute, then switch, aiming for four sets of each circuit. When you can do two sets in a row without stopping, add five kilos. Do four sessions a week and watch your muscles grow.

A-1 DEADLIFT

Perform 5 reps

Start the next phase of your development with a kettlebell or dumbbell on the ground between your feet. Take a shoulder-width stance and bend at your knees and hips to lower your upper body. Keep your head up and your lower back a little arched. Grab hold of the weight with an overhand grip, then use your thighs to raise the weight, straightening your legs. Tense your glutes hard at the top—it will unlock extra power and give you perfect form to boot. Take 2-4 seconds to return to the starting position and reset your position before you perform the exercise again.

A-2 ONE-ARM MILITARY PRESS

Perform 5 reps

This overhead move is a great way to build your shoulders. Feet at shoulder-width, weight in one hand, hoik it up so it’s next to the side of your head with a bent elbow. Straighten the arm hard to push the weight above your head, but make sure you don’t lock your elbow. Slowly lower it to the initial position. Squeeze your abs throughout to prevent your body from twisting. It will hurt more tomorrow if you don’t.

A-3 GOBLET SQUAT

Perform 5 reps

This may sound like something from Game of Thrones and for lower-body strength, it’s just as epic. Fortunately it’s far less bloody. Hold the weight with both hands at chest height, elbows tucked in. Bend your hips and knees to lower yourself. Stop when the bottoms of your thighs are parallel to the ground but sink deeper if you have enough strength. Keep your back straight and knees in line with your feet. Rise to the starting position, finish your reps, and rest a little before continuing.

kettlebell swing

B-1 SWING

Perform 5 reps

This is a classic muscle-building exercise still worth doing.

Begin with a 3-4 foot wide stance, holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand. Hang it between your legs from a straight arm, then let it fall between your legs a little further and absorb the momentum by lowering back. Then drive your hips forward to raise the weight in front of you to chest height. Then, let it drop back between your legs again. Perform this move quickly. Let it swing.

B-2 TURKISH GET-UP

Perform 5 reps

To engage your entire body, all you have to do is stand up. Lie on the ground with your left leg straight and hold a weight in your left hand straight above your chest, supported by your right arm. Pushing off the ground with your right hand and leg, get up to standing position. Lie back down as you keep holding the weight above you. Switch hands and repeat.

B-3 SQUAT THRUST TO PRESS-UP TO DEAD CLEAN

Perform 5 reps

The last exercise in this circuit. Stand with the weight between your legs, bend down to grip the handle with your right hand, and drop into a press-up, then jump your legs forward so your feet land on either side of the kettlebell. Now stand up, pulling the weight up your body until it’s level with your chin and catching it in the rack position. Now do the same on the other side.

med ball press ups

MOBILE REINFORCEMENT

After six weeks of basic weight training, your body is prepared to move on. The next phase of your development builds on new-found strength and mobility and uses a simple apparatus to enhance your athleticism. On the pitch you’ll notice you have much more power. In everyday terms, your all-over muscle will surpass that of the average gym-goer.

INSTRUCTIONS: Complete all three circuits in one workout, doing all your sets before moving on to the next circuit. Rest for 30 seconds after each set in circuits A and B and 60 seconds in C. Perform two to four times a week.

A-1 SWISS BALL HAM CURL

Perform 2 sets of 10 reps

Introducing a ball into play provides the instability you need to build stronger abs. Lie down on the floor with your right ankle resting on the ball. Lift your left foot off the ground and stretch your arms out beside you for balance. Now engage your lower-body muscles to raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Bend your right leg to roll the ball toward your backside. Take two seconds to straighten the same leg to roll the ball back away from you and lower your body down. Resist the urge to lay your body on the ground.

A-2 MED BALL PRESS-UP

Perform 3 sets of 10 reps

Strengthen your abs and your motivation. In a press-up position, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, put your right hand on a medicine ball and your left on the ground. You should bend both your elbows. Perform a press-up, but at the top of the movement bring your left hand to your right shoulder and hold it there for two seconds. Do all of your reps lifting one arm, then swap sides.

A-3 STANDING CALF RAISE

Perform 3 sets of 10 reps

Isolating your lower legs is easy to do. All you need is a small box or a step. Position the balls of your feet on the edge, heels hanging off and lowered as far toward the floor as you possible. Push down hard through your toes, bringing your heels up as high as you can. Jump off, then spring back to the starting position and repeat. If you didn’t feel the burn, wear a weighted vest.

bulgarian-split-squat-01

B-1 BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps

This exercise really engages your hamstrings and quads. Strap into that weighted vest or hold a lightweight plate to your chest, arms crossed. Place one foot in front of the other, and position your back foot on top of a box about 30 cm high. Bend your knee and lower down as much as possible. Now slowly return to the starting position. Complete all your reps, then change sides.

B-2 RAISED PRESS-UP

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps

Shrug off the weighted vest and drop into a press-up position, hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Position your toes on the edge of that same box. The angle variation engages more of your shoulders and upper pecs. Make sure that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Lower down until your upper arms dip below your elbows. Then straighten your arms to return to the starting position. Repeat.

B-3 KNEE-TAP SQUAT

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps

This easy exercise makes sure you squat properly and with good balance. Put on that vest again and stand in front of the box on your left leg. Raise the other leg, bent behind you. Extend your arms to help you keep balance. Bend at the hips and knees to lower down until your back knee lightly taps the top of the box. Now reverse the motion and push back up. Go slowly to avoid awkward bruises.

B-4 ONE-LEG HIP THRUST

Perform 3 sets of 12 reps

In front of the box again, lie with your upper back on the edge, knees bent, hips down. Raise your left leg so you’re balancing on your right. Stretch your arms out to your sides, palms facing up. Stop yourself from nodding off by lifting your hips so your body creates a straight line, from knees to nose. Lower down, switch legs and do again. Don’t get too comfortable, there’s still a circuit to go.

C-1 TOWEL FLY

Perform 3 sets of 15 reps

Find a piece of shiny wooden floor and grab two fresh gym towels. In the press-up position, put a towel under each hand. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Push the towels away from your body while keeping a bend in your elbows. Stop when your chest is an inch above the ground. Pull the towels together to return to the start. You’ll be able to wipe down later.

TRX tricep press

C-2 TRX TRICEP PRESS

Perform 3 sets of 15 reps

Prepare to push through the ceiling of your strength. Set a TRX so the handles are level with your eye line. Hold one in each hand, elbows locked. Now walk your legs back so your physique is diagonal to the ground, your back straight. Lower by bending your elbows until your head is below the handles. Straighten to return. It hurts but you’ll be stunned by how many you can do.

C-3 TRX Y-PULL

Perform 3 sets of 15 reps

Finally, you’re going to do some suspended rowing for a more powerful back and bigger biceps. Set up the TRX as before and grab a handle in each hand. Shuffle your feet forward so your back is diagonal to the ground and your palms face each other. Pull the handles apart so they end up above your head and also you form a standing Y-shape. After completing all your reps, consider this stage of the development complete.

DEAD HANG PULL UP GYM

GROWING EVEN MORE STRENGTH

If you have followed this training plan so far, you’ll have created a foundation of strength, mastered athletic movement and learnt to do it with proper form. Now pull it all together to really see some changes. Use this 30 minutes gymnastics-inspired workout routine to become even stronger and add eye-catching definition. Ready to level up?

INSTRUCTIONS: Complete the exercises in order. Rest as needed, but working our faster will trigger a bigger muscle-building effect. Your goal should be to go through the circuit five times in 30 minutes and aim for four sessions a week.

1 DEAD-HANG PULL-UP

Perform 5 reps

Pull-ups are the best exercise for honing the V-shape that sets you apart from the average gym goer. But you need to be strict with your form. Hang off the bar, hands just past shoulder-width. Try to cling to the bar without gripping it too hard. Then pull with your arms and bring your shoulder blades down and together until your chest touches the bar.

2 PRESS-UP TO FLOOR

Perform 10 reps

We all like shortcuts. But by cutting out the elastic energy, i.e. “bounce,” of your muscles, this tweaks the standard press-up for better muscle recruitment in your arms and chest. Start in a normal press-up position, hands beneath your shoulders. Bend at the elbows and sink until your chest is on the ground. Tap your elbows down before pushing back up. Yes, it’s tough, but it’s worth the effort.

3 DROP SQUAT

Perform 10 reps

This far into the workout routine, you should have built the mobility needed to sink deeper into your regular squats.

Begin with your feet at shoulder-width and bend at your hips and knees to lower. If you can’t sink all the way, stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground. Quickly push up to standing. This works your core, as well as the big muscles in your lower body. You’re heavy enough without the barbell.

4 JUMPING LUNGE

Perform 5 reps on each leg

You’re sticking with your lower body for now; brace yourself for some burn. Stand with arms by your sides, then jump into to a lunge with your front leg at 90 degrees and back knee five cm off the floor. Now leap back up to the start, swap legs and repeat the lunge. Do you find this exercise too easy? Hold your fingers to your temples to activate more of your core for balance.

dead-hang-pull-up-01

5 CHIN TO BURPEE

Perform 5 reps

Your arms have rested a little, which is handy because this is one work hard both your biceps and triceps. Hang from the bar with your palms facing in. Pull up to bring your chest to the bar; hold momentarily, then lower. Drop off the bar and go straight into a burpee with a press-up in the middle. At the top of the burpee grab the bar. Got that? Keep doing it.

6 TRICEP DIP TO L-SIT

Perform 5 reps

This is the gymnast’s six-pack secret. Set yourself up on a pair of parallel bars and complete a full dip, arms at 90 degrees. As you push up, lift your legs until parallel to the ground; hold for one second at the top. Your body and legs should form an L-shape. Lower your legs and repeat the move.

HANGING L-SIT

7 HANGING L-SIT

Perform 10 reps

Complete another core exercise to make sure no ab muscle is left untuned. With hands at shoulder-width, hang at arm’s length. Bring your legs up into the L-sit position. Hold for a second and lower with control. Don’t let your legs start to swing or you’ll lose tension.

8 BODYWEIGHT GET-UP

Perform 5 reps

It sounds simple, but when done right, this will engage all your major muscle groups simultaneously. Begin by standing straight, feet together, then drop your hips. As you do, bring your arms in front of you, and let momentum roll you back onto your shoulders, and bring your knees in front of your face. Now throw your arms forward and leap up to plant your feet firmly on the ground.

9 SINGLE-LEG BOX JUMP

Perform 5 reps on each leg

Finally, let’s bring your new athleticism vertical. This move is difficult (and a bit risky) but your reward is sporting strength that’s as useful in the real world as it’s nice to look at. Stand in front of a box, raise one leg backwards and sink into a squat. Push hard and swing your arms to jump up onto the box; land on one foot. Hop off with feet together, and switch legs. Fight the wobble and blast through your reps.

behind the back clap press up

THE FINALE

You’ve mastered the basics, improved your technique and grown stronger than you’ve ever been. Which is all good to know, but it’s nice to show it off too, right? The behind-the-back-clap press-up is your spotlight move. Perform it when you’re fresh if you want to impress and you’ll build even more strength through your torso.

Pulling your arms behind you improves the flexibility in your back and shoulders. This will stop you from becoming too front heavy like the guys in spray-on vests at the gym.

PACE YOURSELF: Speed isn’t your goal at this stage. In a press-up position, bend your elbows to lower yourself. You want to generate as much elastic energy in your muscles as possible, so tense your abs hard and tuck your elbows in.

CLAP IN TIME: Just before your chest touches the ground, push up fast. Use momentum to pull your hands back to touch behind your lower back. Try to make them meet any higher and you are exposing yourself to the risk of losing face.

LAND IT: Whip your hands back in front to land. You’ll come down hard, so use the strength in your arms to cushion your weight and lower yourself down into another impressive rep. When you complete the exercise, give yourself a pat on the back.

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Written by Thomas Young

Thomas Young just loves bodybuilding and this is why he has found his dream job in a gym working as a personal trainer. On the weekends, he likes to go hiking and mountaineering.

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